[Write on Wednesday] How We Remember Ourselves

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how we build characters (both in real life and in fiction). So much of what we ‘know’ is based in the stories we tell about ourselves. That’s what this week’s prompt is all about.

Man's reflection on body of water. Photo from Randy Jacob on Unsplash

The Prompt

Write a story in which a character tells the same story at three different times in their life.


  • We build our memories of events by retelling the story to ourselves…and usually we like to justify our own actions, even if everyone else was being an idiot. So how we tell the story is shaped by our values and the expectations of the society we move in. That means we remember things how we wish they’d happened, not with absolute clarity and dispassion.
  • When a character does that it offers up delicious possibilities for conflict (between expectation and reality; between the character’s image of their perfect self, and the actions that self took).
  • How the character remembers the event may change over time, again shaped by the company they’re keeping and their own changing values.
  • Allowing the character to retell the same incident three times, at different ages, to different audiences, will allow you to allow the reader to infer what has changed in their lives without you having to spell it out. 
  • Short story readers love a puzzle, so this seems like a really promising framework for a short story.
  • You don’t need to provide transitions or explain time breaks, or even who your character is talking to. Let the reader do some detective work.

If you share you story somewhere (and here’s why you might not want to) post a link here so we can come and read it.

Leave a comment to let us know what you wrote about today, and how it went!

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